Matthews Bark Criminal Defense – Will Artificial Intelligence Favor Conservative Legal Theorists?

Source      : Bell Street News
By             : Gabe Friedman
Category  : Attorney Matthews Bark of Orlando, Matthews Bark Criminal Defense

Will Artificial Intelligence Favor Conservative Legal Theorists?
Will Artificial Intelligence Favor Conservative Legal Theorists?

If computers replace human lawyers anytime soon, it is more likely to benefit politically conservative legal philosophies, such as the one embraced by Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, than liberal philosophies – purely due to idiosyncrasies in the way the dominant technology works, a new paper argues. That’s one of the ideas put forward in a draft version of “Incomplete Innovation and the Premature Disruption of Legal Services,” written by Brian Sheppard, an associate professor at Seton Hall University School of Law. “My argument is that if lawyers are going to be replaced by computers … some of the more conservative [legal] theories may become more popular again because computers can do them quite well,” he said in an interview with Big Law Business. By legal philosophies or theories, Sheppard said he meant the different principles of adjudication that lawyers use when interpreting the law and the Constitution. His paper doesn’t identify any one philosophy with a political leaning, but Sheppard told Big Law Business that generally speaking, some conservative theories will likely be easier for computers to emulate because they are more black-and-white, with little subjectivity.

One of the best-known philosophies, Originalism, holds that the meaning of the U.S. Constitution was fixed at the time of its enactment, and is now closely identified with Scalia, Sheppard said. While it’s often viewed as conservative, it could also be viewed as a liberal bent under certain circumstances, he added. “There’s no philosophical reason why these theories are conservative,” Sheppard said, about Originalism, adding, “Liberals would love Originalism if the country had been on a steady conservative slide since the day it was founded.” The bulk of the paper is devoted to Sheppard’s theory that bespoke legal services — such as negotiation, the creation of high-stakes legal documents and advocacy — will be more scarce in the future as a result of what he calls “premature disruption,” caused by technological innovation, business model innovation or both. In explaining that theory, Sheppard devotes a chunk of his paper to “natural language processing,” the technology used in various artificial intelligence tools including Google, Apple’s Siri, and IBM’s Watson, and which he believes will play a critical role in any disruption that occurs.

Loosely defined, natural language processing is the interaction between computers and human language, such as a computer’s ability to conduct textual analysis or understand speech. A particular branch of this technology, called the syntactical approach, has progressed the furthest, according to Sheppard. Used in Siri and other products, the syntactical technique “is agnostic as to meaning; it essentially searches for matching sequences of characters and sorts based on distance between matching sequences within documents or based on match frequency,” the paper explains. Thus, it struggles with “elementary interpretative tasks,” but it can parse texts and extract meaning. He situates various legal philosophies along a curve based on how easily they can be emulated using syntactical natural language processing. At the bottom of the curve, the legal philosophy that could be most easily emulated with existing technology is Naïve Textualism, or the idea that statutes can be understood by looking up their words in a dictionary.

Further along the curve, already partially available for automation, Sheppard placed the legal philosophy known as Originalism, most famously embraced by Scalia, which holds that the U.S. Constitution’s meaning was fixed at the time it was enacted. To the extent that Originalism envisions the law as having a fixed meaning in the past, Originalism can be more easily automated, the paper states. But Originalism also calls for an understanding of “the intent” of the people who wrote the Constitution, and thus requires a computer to understand complex contextual dimensions, such as the “perceived problems, goals, hopes or ideals” of original legislators, which makes it difficult to fully automate with the current technology. Living Constitutionalism, which involves evaluating principles according to their practicality, how well they promote democratic legitimacy and the evolving values of the present time, sits at the highest spot on the curve and is the least computer-friendly, the paper states. Eventually, natural language processing could emulate such philosophies, with more gray areas, but that technology is still years, if not decades away from being deployable, according to Sheppard.

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Attorney Matthews Bark – Affordability plan for Detroit water doesn’t violate state law

Source     : Metro Times
By            : Michael Jackman
Category : Attorney Matthews BarkMatthews Bark

Affordability plan for Detroit water doesn’t violate state law
Affordability plan for Detroit water doesn’t violate state law

Close readers of News Hits are aware there’s a water tug-of-war going on. At its center is how to best address the problem of ratepayers who can’t afford to pay their bills. On one side is a majority of Detroit’s officials, who insist upon a get-tough policy of shutting off service, coupled with charitable contributions to help customers pay their bills. On the other side is a group of activists, politicians, and consultants who declare that an affordability plan would produce better outcomes for Detroiters, suburban ratepayers, and even the utility itself. It’s a subject that has cropped up in Detroit before. In 2006, Detroit City Council approved an affordability plan for the Department of Water & Sewerage. But the plan was never implemented, and several city officials now proclaim that any such plan would be illegal under state law. Earlier this year, Curt Guyette reported that DWSD Deputy Director Darryl Latimer had told him that state law “prohibits any kind of assistance plan that charges some customers less than the actual cost of service.” The same article mentioned that “DWSD attorney William Wolfson told the board he’s in possession of two legal opinions stating that an affordability plan isn’t allowed under current state law.”
That apparent sticking point came up again in an article in yesterday’s Detroit News, in which DWSD consultant Eric Rothstein said that water affordability plans ”aren’t currently legal in Michigan,” calling them “unconstitutional.”
The fine point of law seems to have gotten a reaction out of local blogger Nick Krieger. Krieger’s day job is as attorney with the Michigan Court of Appeals, but he also pens his own personal legal blog, Fix the Mitten. Yesterday, Krieger blogged about the claims that income-based affordability plans are illegal and unconstitutional and concluded that both statements are “misleading and probably incorrect.”

He writes:

Michigan law provides that a municipal water supplier authorized to sell water beyond its territorial boundaries must charge customers who live outside the city “a rate which is based on the actual cost of service as determined under the utility basis of ratemaking.” … However, there is no comparable statue requiring a municipal water supplier to charge city residents a rate that is based on the actual cost of service. True, the Michigan Supreme Court has held in some cases that municipal utility rates which exceed the actual cost of service constitute a tax and violate a specific provision of the Headlee Amendment of the Michigan Constitution of 1963. But the Michigan Supreme Court has never struck down a municipal utility rate on the ground that it is less than the actual cost of service. Bear in mind that under an income-based payment plan established by the city of Detroit, the rate for out-of-city customers and non-indigent in-city customers would remain the same and would not increase. For example, out-of-city customers would still be charged a rate based on the actual cost of service. The only difference is that qualifying, indigent, in-city customers would be charged a lower rate based on their ability to pay. There is nothing unconstitutional or inherently illegal about such a system. Article 7, section 24 of the Michigan Constitution of 1963 states, “Subject to this constitution, any city or village may acquire, own or operate, within or without its corporate limits, public service facilities for supplying water, light, heat, power, sewage disposal and transportation to the municipality and the inhabitants thereof.” Furthermore, Article 7, section 34 provides that “[t]he provisions of this constitution and law concerning . . . cities and villages shall be liberally construed in their favor.” In the end, neither the Michigan Constitution nor Michigan statutory law appears to place any restriction on a city’s authority to set lower rates for resident water customers based on their ability to pay.

It’s a bit dry and drawn, but it’s about as strong an argument as we’ve heard that there is no prohibition on the progressive plan. When we spoke with economist and lawyer Roger Colton, he told us that such claims about affordability-based plans being illegal were an “excuse,” and added, “Rather than bemoaning the state law, they should start building the argument on why this fits within their traditional regulatory authority, and I think it does.” The question of the moment: Will Detroit could take a lesson from several other U.S. cities and their affordability plans, such as Chicago, St. Louis, Cleveland, and even Philadelphia, which recently approved an affordability plan for its ratepayers? Or will it continue to resort to a system that is ineffective, punitive, and expensive, based on unexamined claims that doing otherwise may be illegal?

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